Motion for a resolution - B8-0142/2018Motion for a resolution

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the situation in Syria

12.3.2018 - (2018/2626(RSP))

to wind up the debate on the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
pursuant to Rule 123(2) of the Rules of Procedure

Barbara Lochbihler, Bodil Valero, Bart Staes, Igor Šoltes, Ernest Urtasun, Yannick Jadot, Molly Scott Cato, Judith Sargentini, Heidi Hautala, Helga Trüpel on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group

See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-0139/2018

Procedure : 2018/2626(RSP)
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European Parliament resolution on the situation in Syria


The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Syria, in particular that of 18 May 2017 on the EU strategy on Syria[1],

–  having regard to the UN human rights conventions to which Syria is a State Party,

–  having regard to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the additional protocols thereto,

–  having regard to the Geneva Communiqué of 2012,

–  having regard to the UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, in particular Resolution 2401 (2018) of 24 February 2018 and Resolution 2139 (2014) of 22 February 2014,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on Syria, including those of 3 April 2017 which adopted the EU strategy on Syria,

–  having regard to the statements by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on Syria,

–  having regard to the reports of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, established by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), and to the UNHRC resolutions on Syria, including that of 5 March 2018 on the deteriorating situation of human rights in Eastern Ghouta,

–  having regard to UN General Assembly Resolution A-71/248 of 21 December 2016 on an International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011,

–  having regard to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the war in Syria has become one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history and continues to have devastating consequences for the Syrian people; whereas this conflict, supported and exacerbated by external actors, is having an increasingly destabilising impact on the wider region and beyond;

B.  whereas over 400 000 people, mostly civilians, have lost their lives since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in 2011; whereas 13.1 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 6 million displaced people and more than 2.9 million people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas, including Palestinian refugees; whereas over 5 million Syrians have had to seek refuge abroad, notably in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey;

C.  whereas under international law, warring parties are obliged to take appropriate measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure; whereas grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law have been committed by all sides, in particular by the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies; whereas the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the UN Secretary-General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have stated that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed in Syria;

D.  whereas the violations committed during the Syrian conflict include extrajudicial killings, torture and ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, mass and arbitrary arrest, targeted and indiscriminate attacks on civilians, collective punishments, attacks against medical personnel and denial of food and water; whereas the Assad regime is reportedly responsible for hangings, acts of torture and extrajudicial killings on a massive scale in its detention facilities, as well as the use of chemical attacks against civilian targets; whereas these crimes have so far gone unpunished;

E.  whereas the risk of regional escalation remains high, with the increasing involvement of regional actors, including Turkey, which launched a military offensive against Kurdish forces in the northern province of Afrin on 20 January 2018, and Israel, which carried out airstrikes against Syrian military targets on 7 February 2018; whereas in February 2018, the US administration announced its intention to maintain troops in Syria indefinitely;

F.  whereas while the level of violence may have decreased across some parts of the country, significant fighting continues elsewhere, notably in two, mostly jihadi-controlled areas of Eastern Ghouta and Idlib; whereas the Assad regime, with the backing of its Russian and Iranian allies, has been carrying out a heavy military offensive and bombardments in these enclaves, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths; whereas forces in Eastern Ghouta have been accused by the Assad regime of shelling civilian districts in Damascus; whereas the humanitarian situation of the 400 000 people in Eastern Ghouta – under siege for over five years – has deteriorated significantly over the past weeks with a sharp increase in indiscriminate bombings and targeted attacks against hospitals and other civilian infrastructure; whereas chemical weapons were reported to have been used;

G.  whereas the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted resolution 2401 on 24 February 2018, which requires all parties to the Syrian conflict to immediately cease hostilities for at least 30 consecutive days throughout Syria to enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the evacuation of the critically sick and wounded; whereas the resolution affirmed that the cessation of hostilities does not apply to military operations against militant groups such as Da’esh, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra and other UNSC-designated terrorist groups;

H.  whereas the Assad regime, with support from its allies, blatantly ignored UNSC resolution 2401, stepping up its bombardments and taking further control of the territory, which it claims is held by terrorists; whereas Russia subsequently proposed a five-hour pause in the military operations in order to allow for humanitarian aid delivery and access; whereas a first aid truck reached Eastern Ghouta on 5 March 2018 yet came under fire, and whereas the International Committee of the Red Cross reported that Russia had blocked delivery of medical supplies; whereas the humanitarian needs of the trapped population remain dramatically high and unmet;

I.  whereas Geneva-based negotiations have so far not led to concrete progress towards a solution to the conflict, following the 9th round in Vienna on 25 and 26 January 2018; whereas on 4 May 2017 Russia, Iran and Turkey reached a deal in Kazakhstan to establish four de-escalation zones (including Eastern Ghouta), which was frequently breached thereafter; whereas the creation of a constitutional committee was announced at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress that took place in Sochi on 30 January 2018, but has not been accepted by all parties;

J.  whereas the EU is the biggest humanitarian aid donor in Syria and the neighbouring countries, with over EUR 9 billion committed since the start of the crisis;

K.  whereas on 3 April 2017 the Council adopted an EU strategy for Syria, which outlines six key objectives: an end to the war through a genuine political transition; the promotion of a meaningful and inclusive transition; addressing the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable Syrians; promoting democracy, human rights and freedom of speech by strengthening Syrian civil society organisations; promoting accountability for war crimes; and supporting the resilience of the Syrian population and society;

L.  whereas the second ministerial conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region will take place in Brussels on 24 and 25 April 2018 under the co-chairship of the VP/HR and the UN; whereas the conference will aim to maintain the focus of the international community on Syria;

M.  whereas in February 2018, the US-led Global Coalition against Da’esh and its allies reported to have liberated over 98 % of the area formerly controlled by Da’esh, as well as 7.7 million Iraqis and Syrians once held under Da’esh rule; whereas the Coalition reported that it conducted a total of 29 070 strikes between August 2014 and January 2018; whereas the Coalition’s Civilian Casualty Assessment Team reported that the total number of unintentional civilian casualties stood at 786 at the end of September 2017; whereas the NGO Airwars estimates that up to 9 300 civilians are likely to have died in Coalition actions;

N.  whereas on 1 February 2018 the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria reported that in northern Raqqah and Hasakah, the Syrian Democratic Forces have interned 80 000 internally displaced persons, including women and children, in order to vet them for possible connections to IS/Da’esh and concluded that ‘in many instances, the ongoing internment of those individuals amounts to arbitrary deprivation of liberty and the unlawful detention of thousands of individuals’;

O.  whereas the head of the Syrian National Security Bureau, Ali Mamlouk, included in the EU sanctions list, has reportedly met with the Italian Interior Minister and the Director of the Agency for Information and External Security in Rome, in flagrant violation of Council Decision 2011/273/CFSP of 9 May 2011 concerning restrictive measures against Syria;

P.  whereas the EU-funded Conflict Armament Research report of December 2017 entitled ‘Weapons of the Islamic State’ found that a high number of weapons and ammunitions had been repeatedly exported by Bulgaria and Romania to both the US and Saudi Arabia and retransferred, in some cases, in direct breach of specific no re-export undertakings, to non-state groups in Syria and Iraq; whereas the report stated that these unauthorised retransfers are ‘a significant source of IS weapons and ammunition’; whereas these repeated and systematic retransfers contravened clauses in end-user certificates and whereas the Member States are obliged, under Criterion Seven of the legally-binding Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP on arms exports, to factor these breaches of commitment into future export licensing decisions;

1.  Expresses its gravest concern at the downward spiralling of the conflict in Syria in recent weeks, with further external involvement, internal fragmentation and brutal killing of civilians, including in Eastern Ghouta and Afrin;

2.  Strongly deplores the lack of progress towards a political solution to the Syrian conflict; recalls that there can be no sustainable military solution to the conflict, and calls on all parties to comply in full with UNSC resolutions requiring the immediate cessation of hostilities, the lifting of all sieges, full and unhindered country-wide humanitarian access and the protection of humanitarian aid workers by all parties; emphasises in this regard the need for the establishment of a UN-led ceasefire monitoring, verification and reporting mechanism;

3.  Condemns, once again and in the strongest terms, the atrocities and widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by the forces of the Assad regime with the support of its allies, as well as by non-state armed groups; calls on all parties to allow unconditional access to all places of detention by independent monitors and to release all detained children, women, older people and disabled persons;

4.  Condemns the incursion of Turkish troops into northern Syria, which constitutes a violation of international law; calls on the Turkish Government to immediately withdraw its troops and play a constructive role in the Syrian conflict, which is also in Turkey’s national interests;

5.  Insists that the Russian-led diplomatic initiatives should not undermine UN efforts to reach a political solution; reaffirms, in this context, the continued primacy of the UN-led Geneva process and supports the efforts of the UN Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, to ensure a genuine political transition in line with UNSC resolutions; reiterates the importance of including women in the conflict resolution process in line with UNSC resolution 1325; insists also on the importance of including Syrian civil society and all ethnic and religious minorities in the talks on Syria’s future and governance structure;

6.  Remains distressed by the continued disappearance of human rights defender and Sakharov Prize laureate, Razan Zaitouneh, who was reportedly kidnapped in Douma in December 2013 by the armed group Jaysh al-Islam; calls for an EU task force to be established in order to coordinate and enhance efforts to seek her whereabouts and ensure her release;

7.  Expresses concern at the situation of the populations returning to areas, including those retaken from IS/Da’esh, such as in Raqqa, that are contaminated by explosive remnants of war; calls for particular attention to be paid to these populations, including with a view to stabilising the areas concerned and preventing a resurgence of a Da’esh-like phenomenon;

8.  Calls on the Member States to provide practical support for the implementation of the EU strategy for Syria, which establishes a solid and comprehensive basis for enhanced EU action in both conflict and post-conflict phases;

9.  Encourages the VP/HR to step up her outreach to regional and local actors in the conflict and her attempts to find common ground for peace in order to open discussions on the future of Syria;

10.  Welcomes the emphasis put on supporting the resilience of the Syrian population in the EU strategy for Syria; stresses that Syrian civil society will be vitally important to rebuild social cohesion and social capital, promote reconciliation and provide basic services in Syria; calls for the EU and the Member States to increase their support in building the capacities of the Syrian people and civil society, including with and through actors that promote human rights, equality (including gender equality and minority rights), democracy and empowerment, where possible in territories outside the control of the Assad regime and UNSC-designated terrorist groups, as well as those of Syrian refugees living in exile in the region or in Europe; calls, in this respect, for increased support for peaceful and democratic Syrian civil society organisations and human rights defenders, including through the Madad Fund, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace, and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights;

11.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to expand the current scope of the Madad Fund to enable earlier recovery and resilience assistance in Syria, at household and community level; stresses that Syrian citizens should be allowed to assess their own priorities and needs for recovery, and calls for the EU and its Member States to allocate adequate resources to localised, context-specific and gender-sensitive surveys of recovery needs; stresses that such assessments must be independent from the Syrian Government and should be completed before projects are begun;

12.  Looks forward to the forthcoming Brussels Conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region; stresses that humanitarian needs will remain critical for years to come and urges the EU and its Member States to guarantee their long-term commitment to meeting the humanitarian needs of the people of Syria and their preparedness for reconstruction efforts following a UN-approved political agreement; urges the EU and the Member States to ensure the meaningful participation of Syrian civil society actors before, during and after the Brussels Conference;

13.  Welcomes the EU’s commitment to ongoing humanitarian aid to Syria’s neighbours, which are hosting millions of refugees; calls, however, on the Member States to show a much stronger commitment to responsibility-sharing, enabling refugees fleeing the Syrian war zones to find protection beyond the immediate neighbouring region, through resettlement, humanitarian admission schemes, simplified family reunification and more flexible visa regulations;

14.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to show strict respect for the principle of non-refoulement and to advocate publicly against the ongoing forced return of Syrians currently located in Syria’s neighbouring countries; calls for the EU and its Member States to rule out explicitly any deals under which the Assad regime takes back Syrian refugees in exchange for reconstruction aid;

15.  Strongly deplores the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of serious crimes in Syria; considers that the lack of accountability breeds further atrocities and compounds the suffering of the victims; insists, therefore, on the need to hold all perpetrators to account and to provide reparation to victims;

16.  Insists that more action be taken by the EU in this area, including through the adoption of an EU accountability strategy towards the atrocity crimes committed in Syria, that also reflects on the important role of Member States in this respect, and calls on the VP/HR to take a proactive role in this matter;

17.  Reiterates its call on the EU and its Member States to explore, in close coordination with like-minded countries, the creation of a Syria war crimes tribunal, pending a successful referral to the International Criminal Court; calls on the Member States to extend all necessary support to the IIIM;

18.  Urges all Member States to take all necessary measures to hold alleged perpetrators to account, notably through the application of the principle of universal jurisdiction and by investigating and prosecuting EU nationals responsible for atrocity crimes in Syria; welcomes, in this respect, the efforts of some Member States, notably Germany and Sweden, to investigate atrocity crimes committed in Syria, and to hold perpetrators to account; notes the important work of the European Network of contact points in respect of persons responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and calls on the VP/HR and the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers to support and include the Network in future accountability efforts for Syria;

19.  Urges all Member States to ensure full compliance with Council Decision 2013/255/CFSP on restrictive measures against Syria, in particular the freezing of assets of individuals listed therein and the restrictions on admission of persons benefiting from or supporting the regime in Syria; expresses concern at recent reports of violations of this decision and reminds Member States of their obligation under international law to ensure the arrest and detention of suspects of atrocity crimes present on their territory; urges Member States to consider adopting additional targeted measures against those responsible for the crimes committed in Eastern Ghouta;

20.  Is shocked by the amount of EU-made weapons and ammunitions found in the hands of Da’esh in Syria and Iraq; notes the failure of Bulgaria and Romania to apply Common Position 2008/944/CFSP on arms exports effectively as regards retransfers that contravene end-user certificates; calls on all Member States to refuse similar transfers in the future, notably to the US and Saudi Arabia, and calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Member States, in particular Bulgaria and Romania, to explain what steps have been taken in this matter; calls on the EEAS to address the many cases revealed by the recent Conflict Armament Research report and to explore more effective methods for diversion risk assessment in the Working Party on Conventional Arms Exports (COARM) and relevant fora, including making respect for Criterion Seven of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP a legal obligation as part of the forthcoming review of this document; decides to launch an investigation into this matter;

21.  Recalls that any measures taken to combat Da’esh and other UNSC-recognised terrorist groups must comply strictly with international law; calls on the Member States and their allies, notably the US, to ensure transparency, accountability and full compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law in their participation in international coalition efforts and their military cooperation with parties in the conflict;

22.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the UN-Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, the members of the International Syria Support Group and the parties involved in the conflict in Syria.

Last updated: 13 March 2018
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